Though movies and television shows sometimes depict hazing as a rite of passage for those attempting to join certain exclusive organizations, the practice is no laughing matter under Tennessee state law.
University code of conduct
It would likely surprise many people that state law requires that every public or private college and university in Tennessee create and implement a policy which prohibits hazing. That means every single institution of higher learning in the state prevents fraternities and sororities, as well as other student groups and athletic teams, from hazing new or existing members.
The law in Tennessee says that each higher education institution is required to adopt a policy prohibiting hazing by any student or organization operating on campus. The policy must then be distributed to all students at the beginning of each school year and time must be spent discussing the policy during orientation.
The law defines hazing as “any intentional or reckless act in Tennessee on or off the property of any college or University by one (1) student acting alone or with others which is directed against any other student.” To qualify as hazing the conduct must either endanger the mental or physical health or safety of the student or it must coerce the student into endangering his or her own mental or physical health or safety.
What’s so bad about hazing?
Some hazing may seem harmless, so what’s the problem? The fact is that hazing is an act of power and control and results in the victimization of others. Hazing is degrading in the best of cases and can be downright abusive in the worst. Given its nature, hazing is a premeditated act and not a mere accidental occurrence.Thousands of young people from across the country have been injured, suffered alcohol poisoning or even died as a result of hazing that may have started off as good natured.
What if someone agrees to participate in the hazing. Does that make it better?
Instates like Tennessee where laws against hazing exist, consent of the victim cannot be used as a defense in any subsequent civil lawsuits. This is because even if someone agrees to participate in a potentially dangerous activity, it may not be genuine consent given the impact of peer pressure and the victim’s desire to belong to the group.